Local boaters take on unique challenge | PostIndependent.com

Local boaters take on unique challenge

John Savage and Sally Brands of Rifle recently completed the America's Great Loop boating trip.
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Just before the end of 2017, John Savage and Sally Brands of Rifle completed one of the world’s most unique adventures, America’s Great Loop, a journey only accomplished by approximately 100 boaters each year.

Starting from Fort Meyers, Florida, on March 3 of last year, the two traveled 6,000 miles across the eastern coast of the U.S. and Canada, through the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, into the New York State Canals and Great Lakes, down the inland river system, and across the Gulf of Mexico to make it back to Fort Meyers Beach on Dec. 12.

They aren’t the only ones from the area looking to complete the journey.

Long-time Glenwood Springs resident Bill Hauskins is currently anchored outside Panama City, Florida, about 2,000 miles into the Loop, which he started on Lake Michigan.

His journey will take him up the East Coast next as he makes his way back to Michigan after traveling down inland U.S. lakes and rivers. He expects the trip to take him at least another year to complete, as he’s enjoying the travel while he can.

“This is my first year doing it, and it’s just been phenomenal so far, there is something different every day,” Hauskins said. “It will be an amazing accomplishment just to finish it, but I’m just happy to be on it.”

Once he makes his way back to Lake Michigan, Hauskins will receive his “BaccaLOOPerate” degree, just like Savage and Brands.

“It was so interesting seeing all of the small towns across the country and how they compare to Rifle,” Brands said of her trip. “Lots are doing the same things we are, like farmers markets.

“We got to see things that you’d normally just fly through on the interstate.”

Aboard the Colorado Cowboy, their 37’ Mirage Great Harbor GH37 Power Boat, Brands and Savage enjoyed the sights and sounds across the Eastern Seaboard, visiting cities such as New York, Chicago and Toronto.

Brands admitted that it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience to pull up to the Statue of Liberty by boat or to see Washington’s monuments from the Potomac River.

But her favorite part was seeing the small towns and seeing how many boats wore the white American Great Loop Cruisers Association flags throughout their trips.

Each AGLCA member receives a white flag, known as a burgee, which has a stylized map of an outline highlighting the Great Loop route. However, only those that have completed the Great Loop Cruise can receive a gold flag.

Brands said when they came across a gold one, it was like seeing a celebrity. A gold Great Loop burgee now hangs at their office in Rifle.

While Hauskins has yet to collect his gold burgee, he said he will be sailing up the East Coast with his Colorado flag flying.